DEHRADUN: The new year had brought good news for more than 53,000 pensioners in Uttarakhand who were not getting their money from the government because they did not have Aadhaar cards.
The state government has now agreed to release their pension. This follows a TOI report published on December 16 which highlighted the plight of these people, many of them too ill, old or infirm to even make it to Aadhaar enrollment centres.
Confirming this on Wednesday, Major (retd) Yogendra Yadav, director of the state social welfare department, said, “It has been decided to release the pension to the eligible disabled, widow and elderly people who do not have an Aadhaar card yet. However, we hope that these people submit their Aadhaar card details by March 31 in accordance with guidelines issued by the Union government.” According to documents accessed by TOI, out of 59,081 people who draw disability pension in Uttarakhand, 5,424 had not got a single penny since October 2016. Of 4.2 lakh beneficiaries who draw old-age pension, 36,060 elderly people did not receive it for a year due to lack of Aadhaar. Of 1.5 lakh widows eligible for pension, 12,047 stopped getting it as they had not submitted their Aadhaar numbers.
The social welfare department said the pensions were stopped after the state government made it mandatory to connect all government schemes to Aadhaar last year. On the other hand, several ineligible candidates were availing of the pension benefit in the state. TOI had reported in July, 2016 that over 8,000 people who were dead continued to get pension in Uttarakhand. Yashpal Arya, minister of social welfare department, said that “while the idea behind having Aadhaar numbers was to ascertain that only genuine beneficiaries were getting the money, we will not let bonafide eligible candidates who are currently without documentation suffer.”
Pensioners welcomed the government’s decision. Neero Devi, a 62-year-old widow whose 30-year-old disabled son Raj Kumar could not get his Aadhaar card made despite several attempts — since the machine could not take his fingerprints or iris scan — got a pleasant surprise when officials visited her house in Rajawala village, 20 km from Dehradun on Tuesday to record Kumar’s biometric details. TOI had in its report highlighted the plight of Devi, who largely relied on the disability pension of Rs 1,000 which she got to take care of her son — and which had been denied to her for several months. She said, “I could not believe my eyes when I saw officials visiting my home. It has given me hope that we will get our dues now.”